Press Releases | Inequality and Poverty

News from EPI Occupy Wall Street is right about nation’s skewed economic rewards

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Contact: Phoebe Silag or Karen Conner, 202-775-8810

Occupy Wall Street is right about nation’s skewed economic rewards


Today, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a report on economic inequality in the U.S. that explains that the Occupy Wall Street movement is fundamentally right about how skewed the nation’s economic rewards have become. 


Occupy Wall Streeters are right about skewed economic rewards in the United States, by EPI president Lawrence Mishel and economist Josh Bivens, presents 12 charts—detailing trends in income, wages, capital income and  wealth—that highlight the economic inequality that developed between 1979 and 2007, pre-dating the recession.


The paper’s findings include the following:

·         Between 1979 and 2007, the incomes of the top 0.1% of households grew 390% and those of the top 1% grew 224%, while incomes of the bottom 90% saw gains over that whole period of just 5%.

·         The much more rapid growth at the top of the income scale resulted in the top 1% of households claiming just under 60% of all income gains between 1979 and 2007.

·         Between 1979 and 2006, the annual wages of the top 0.1% grew 324% and those of the top 1% grew 144%, while the bottom 90% saw gains over that whole period of just 15%.  Between 1979 and 2007, the share of capital income (income generated by holding wealth) claimed by the top 1% rose from 38% to 57%.

·         The ratio of the wealth held by the wealthiest 1% of households to the wealth held by the median household was 225-to-1 in 2009, up from 131-to-1 in 1983.


The data show that while the U.S. economy has generated significant income growth in the last thirty years and is expected to do so again over the next thirty years, the rapid growth of inequality has kept this growth from translating into rapidly rising living standards for typical families.


“Our nation has the economic wherewithal to provide a decent standard of living for all,” said Mishel.  “However, there needs to be a set of policies implemented to make that happen.  It was economic policy that led to the grossly skewed growth of incomes, wages and wealth over the last generation. It is no accident that the typical household had modest income gains and lost wealth while those in the top 1% did exceptionally well. “


“Unfortunately, federal policymakers have consistently failed to address the economic troubles of typical families –and this pattern has just gotten worse since the onset of the Great Recession,” Bivens added.  “The sense that most of us have been ignored by those in charge of economic policy is totally justified, and I think it is what is driving the energy of the Occupy Wall Street campaign.”




See related work on Economic inequality